Acceptance Speech of Alt Minister of Electronics and Information Technology

Hello everyone. In preparation for potentially coming on board Alt Sarkar as MeITy, I have outlined three priorities:
I. The Aadhaar project
1) Direct the CAG to conduct a full-scale fiscal audit of the Aadhaar project, going back to when it was operated under the Planning Commission, to investigate whether the project has been a liability to the government and whether it needs to be shut down purely on grounds of fiscal imprudence.
2) Set up an three member tribunal reporting to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT to assess in toto the consequences of UIDAI being a data collector, arbiter and regulator. The committee be empowered to recommend compensations to those who have suffered deleteriously due to mismanagement of the Aadhaar project. It is currently anticipated that the funds diverted from the UIDAI’s budget for the current fiscal year shall be utilized for such compensations.
3) Recommend an investigation, preferably by a Special Investigative Taskforce, into any and all possibilities of conflicts of interest and collusion with private sector entities which have profited or stood to profit from the Aadhaar project. The taskforce will be requested to recommend both criminal as well as financial penalties commensurate with the individuals’ earned or expected financial windfall through insider access to the Aadhaar project.
4) Appoint an Expert Committee to outline and, upon necessary approval by Parliament, execute the technological process by which all data collected for the Aadhaar project might be deleted and information provided to the public regarding the same within a specified timeframe. It shall be recommended, within the Data Protection framework (see II below) that continued possession of Aadhaar-related biometric data will be considered a criminal offence and the data holder prosecuted accordingly.
5) The aforementioned Committee shall also look to identify individuals possessing solely the Aadhaar number and, after suitable (door-to-door) verification through a vetted agency appointed specifically for the purpose, facilitate use of alternate means of identification.

II. Data security
1) Appoint an Expert Committee to review thoroughly the draft Data Protection Bill submitted by the Justice Sri Krishna Commission and address the concerns raised during various public consultations and electronic submissions. The Committee shall be tasked with conducting further public consultations, with international experts as necessary, and also identify measures to streamline the digital data security apparatus currently being employed by all Government departments as well as the armed forces and intelligence community.
2) Based on the Expert Committee’s report, appoint a team to work with the Press Information Bureau on disseminating to the public through multiple media the need for data security and privacy and seek broad consensus on the measures suggested.
3) The revised Bill will be presented to the Parliamentary Standing Committee and subsequently in Parliament at the earliest and passage sought expeditiously.

4) As part of public outreach, all efforts will be made to make the general public aware of the need for personal data security, through messaging in multiple languages and modes, and thereby advance the digital literacy of the nation.

III. Re-envisioning Digital India

I hold that the current model of digitizing governance, finance, and e-commerce has not been broad-based and consultative, creating unconscionable roadblocks for true innovation, besides developing products that only further exclude the marginalized and digitally challenged. Furthermore, the entrenched presence of vested interests has ensured that the edifice of Digital India currently under construction will forever require specialized maintenance from the same people charged with constructing the said edifice today. This is not a model that truly serves the nation. The Ministry will therefore organise at the earliest a public review featuring experts from across the spectrum of digital technologies, including academicians, scholars of technological jurisprudence, innovators, and industry veterans (with an exemplary record of public service) of all technological measures adopted by the government of India. This shall be accompanied by a parallel fiscal audit of the various technological processes, systems, and organisations currently in existence. The objective of this exercise will be to identify expressly what methods and systems will be most robustly and efficiently translatable to the largest possible majority at minimum public cost while ensuring probity and transparency at all levels. A secondary objective will be to identify and eliminate any potential for monopolistic private profiteering through public-minded adoption of technologies.

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